THE HISTORY of YARNER, BOVEY TRACEY
Published 2 January 2017
The Yarner estate, now divided into Yarner House and Yarner Wood, lies on the western side of the historic manor of Bovey Tracey. Its history is traced, firstly through the frequent changes of medieval lordship of the manor, which was often held by the Crown, and then through individual owners from when the Crown sold the land in Elizabethan times. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century Yarner again changed hands with considerable frequency illustrating financial dealings and mineral speculation which were prevalent at that time.
Yarner lies to the west of the town of Bovey Tracey along the north-eastern slopes of Haytor Down. Gover described Yarner as meaning ‘eagle bank or slope’ which is an understandable description given its elevated position with sweeping views across the Bovey valley.1 It comprises Yarner House, a Grade II listed building with its private grounds of 250 acres; Yarner Wood a 365 acre woodland which is managed by Natural England as part of East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve; and residential properties within the original historic estate boundary (Figures 1- 3). Yarner House is an impressive family home thought to be seventeenth century or earlier. It is crenelated and was remodelled and enlarged in the nineteenth century.2 The nature reserve is an ancient oak wood. The whole estate is in the Dartmoor National Park.
At the time of the Norman Conquest Yarner was land within the Manor of Bovey Tracey. At various times this Manor was Crown land until it was split up and sold in the late sixteenth century. From then on the Yarner estate changed hands surprisingly often compared with other local estates, illustrating land and mineral speculation. The various medieval Lords of the Manor of Bovey Tracey, who held Yarner, and subsequent owners and occupiers of the estate are traced to the mid-twentieth century.
Figure 2 Yarner House and Yarner Wood. Base map, drawn by Image Makers, by kind permission of Natural England. Yarner House addition Frances Billinge 2016.
Figure 3. Aerial view of Yarner Wood nature reserve on the left of the Bovey Valley, drawn by Image Makers, by kind permission of Natural England.
MEDIEVAL LORDS OF THE MANOR OF BOVEY TRACEY
Summary: The land in which Yarner lies was part of the historic manor of Bovey Tracey. The manor had frequent changes of lordship in medieval times. This started with William the Conqueror giving it to Geoffrey de Mowbray.Sometimes the manor was inherited but at other times it was forfeited to the Crown when the lord was no longer in favour. It also passed to the Crown if the lord died without a male successor. This meant that Bovey Tracey was in the hands of rich and powerful followers of the King, or administered by the King himself. Some detail of each of the lords is given below but fuller information can be found in Billinge 2016.3
The Norman Conquest
Before the Norman conquest of 1066 the manor of ‘Bovi’ was held by Edric. By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 the manor had the land of fifteen theigns added to it and included the land in which Yarner now lies which was part of Pullabrook. William the Conqueror gave the whole manor of Bovey to Geoffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of Coutances, as part of the honour of Barnstaple.4 This grant of the Barnstaple honour made Geoffrey one of the ten wealthiest men in England. Bovey was in the Teignton (Teignbridge) Hundred administrative area of the time and was the southernmost manor of the Barnstaple honour.
After Geoffrey de Mowbray died in 1093, his nephew Robert Mowbray Earl of Northumberland inherited his lands. Mowbray later defied the King and so forfeited his estates to the Crown in 1095.5 This was the start of an often repeated pattern of the lordship of the manor of Bovey, and hence the ownership of the lands which included Yarner, reverting to the Crown.
The next lord of the manor was Judhael of Totnes who received it from Henry I sometime between 1095 and 1100.6 Judhael died c.1130 and his son Alured inherited the barony of Barnstaple, including the manor of Bovey.7 It is possible that Alured had his estates escheated for treason c.1136 and that King Stephen held the manor of Bovey until Alured died in 1139.8
The de Tracy Connection with Bovey Tracey
After Alured the Barony of Barnstaple was inherited by his sisters as coheiresses. One sister was married to Henry I de Tracy, and Eleanor, the other sister, was married Philip de Braose. This is the first reference to the manor of Bovey being connected to the name Tracy.9
It is unclear exactly when the manor of Bovey passed from Henry I de Tracy to his son Oliver I de Tracy. It has been suggested that Henry I de Tracy died between 1139-1165 and that King Stephen seised Henry I de Tracy’s lands because in 1165 the then king, Henry II, charged Oliver I de Tracy a heavy fine of five hundred marks to release them.10
The manor was inherited by Oliver II de Tracy on his father’s death in 1184.11 William II de Braose was now lord of the other moiety of the honour of Barnstaple, and his son William III de Braose inherited from him in 1192.12 In 1196 William III de Braose reached a financial agreement with Oliver II de Tracy that William III would have both moieties of the honour of Barnstaple.13 Oliver had thus only been lord of the manor for twelve years before selling it. William III de Broase was not lord for long. He forfeited his share of the inheritance of the honour of Barnstaple when he could not honour the Crown for considerable debts he had accumulated.14
King John was then lord of the manor for the next five or so years. Oliver II de Tracy died in 1210 leaving his widow Eva de Tracy and their son Henry II de Tracy. In 1213 King John conferred both moieties of the barony of Barnstaple on Henry II de Tracy so once again a de Tracy was lord of the manor.
In 1219 Eva, Henry II de Tracy’s mother, as lord of the manor of Bovy, obtained a charter for its weekly market.15 By 1227 Henry II de Tracy had taken over the lordship.16 An important date for the manor of Bovy was 1260 when the next lord Henry III de Tracy obtained a charter granting permission for an annual three day July fair.17 Bovey is thought to have become a borough at about this time. Establishing a borough and developing its fairs and markets was happening elsewhere in Devon which had seventy boroughs by the middle of the 1300s.18 In this way Bovey residents were becoming part of a developing trading community and the occupiers of the outlying manor holdings including Yarner were part of this.
On Henry III de Tracy’s death in 1274 his heir was his granddaughter Maud de Brienne. By then Maud was married to her second husband Geoffrey de Camville so the honour of Barnstaple, which still included the manor of Bovey, went to him.19 Following Geoffrey de Camville’s death in 1308 he was succeeded as lord of the manor by his step-son William III Martin. William III was the son of Camville’s wife from her first marriage to Nicholas II Martin, and as such he was Henry III de Tracy’s great grandson.20 William III Martin was not lord of the manor for long as by 1324 he had died and was succeeded by his son William IV Martin. However William IV had an even shorter tenure than his father and died two years after he inherited. As he had no children his heirs in 1326 were his elder sister Eleanor and James de Audley, the son of his younger sister Joan. Eleanor thus inherited half the barony of Barnstaple and her second husband Philip VI de Columbars became lord of the manor of Bovey Tracey.21 Like her brother before her Eleanor died without issue. Her husband Philip died in the same year of 1342. On his death Philip, as lord of the manor, was allowed to transfer his rights and lands to his nephew James de Audley.23 During this time a Lay Subsidy was levied in 1332 and the land holding which included Yarner was tenanted by Stephen de Polebrok on which he paid 15d tax.24 James de Audley had already inherited half of the barony of Barnstaple through his mother, Joan Audley née Martin, and he was given these lands in 1329. In 1337 he was re-granted his aunt Eleanor’s lands which included Bovey Tracey but these were to remain with his aunt and uncle until their deaths. This is the first reference to the Tracey name being added to the manor of Bovey.25 In 1343, after both Eleanor’s and Philip de Columbar’s deaths in the same year, James de Audley came into their lands and his estates included Bovey Tracey, and other Devon manors.
1344 – Murder and Theft at Yarner and the Vicar of Moretonhampstead
It is during Audley’s lordship that we have the first reference to Yarner. We learn from the Calendar of Patent Rolls of August 1344 that at that time ‘Yarnoure‘, ‘Yarnourere‘ was hunting land below Haytor, as there was a serious incident involving murder and theft. On 15th August commission of oyer and termoner was given by the King, ‘touching the death of Edward le Tourner killed at Yarnoure by Bovy Tracy’.26 The next day James de Audley was given power to obtain one mark compensation from intruders on his land, ‘who broke his park at Yarnoure by Bovy Tracy,’ hunted there without licence, carried away his goods and deer and severely assaulted Audley’s servant Joh le Sawere.27 The fact that goods and a servant were there suggests that there would have been a residence of some type, perhaps a hunting lodge.
Figure 4. The Woods at Yarner. Frances Billinge 2016.
The intruders included Philip Vautort, parson of ‘Merton’ [Moretonhampstead]. Nowadays we might be surprised to hear of the parson committing such an offence but it was not so unusual then. Among his co-offenders were Jordan Vautort and his sons William and Philip, Warin Vautort, and Richard Talbot. This reference also confirms that Yarner was a separate park by this time. Its tranquil setting today gives no hint of the violence in medieval times (Figure 4).
A Contested grant to St Mary Graces
In 1353 Edward III purchased and conveyed the reversion of de Audley’s Devon manors, including Bovey Tracey, to feoffees intending them to endow the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary Graces near the Tower of London when de Audley died. Edward III had founded this abbey in 1350.28 James de Audley had settled the barony of Barnstaple on his male heirs, but as there were none when he died all his lands reverted to the King. This was to be the end of the almost two hundred and fifty years of de Tracy family connections being linked with the lordship of Bovey Tracey. There then followed over two hundred years of frequent changes of the lordship or distant ownership by the Crown. Despite Edward III’s intentions, when James de Audley died in 1384 Richard II gave Bovey Tracey and other lands to his half-brother John de Holland, Earl of Huntingdon.29 This was in breach of Edward III’s wishes and subsequent court rolls show that St Mary Graces frequently insisted that the manor of Bovey Tracey was rightly theirs. In 1385, during Richard II’s expedition to Scotland, de Holland was involved in the brutal murder of a member of the Stafford family and as a result Richard II took back de Holland’s lands. Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was then granted them to maintain his status as Marquis of Dublin.30 In 1387 John de Beauchamp of Holt, a member of the King’s household, was given the manor of ‘Bovytracy’ for life when he was elevated to the peerage.31 De Beauchamp did not hold Bovey Tracey for long. This was a time when powerful lords rose up against what they saw as the rule of a tyrannical King. Following the defeat of the royalists at the Battle of Radcot Bridge the ‘Merciless Parliament’ condemned de Beauchamp to death and he was beheaded for treason in 1388.32 After only five months of de Beauchamp’s lordship, on 18 March 1388, the King’s second cousin Philip de Courtenay was granted Bovey Tracey and other Devon manors which were previously de Audley’s lands.33 The grant of Devon manors to Philip de Courtenay only lasted four months. By July 1388 John de Holland, now back in favour with the King, was again Earl of Huntingdon and the manor of Bovey Tracey and other Devon lands were given back to him.34
Second Official Documentation of Yarner in 1399
In a 1399 Court Roll Gover tells us that Yarner was listed as ‘Yarner, Yarner Wood, Yarner Downe’.35 John de Holland became Duke of Exeter in 1397. In late 1399 and early 1400 de Holland was part of the Epiphany Rising rebellion supporting Richard II against the future Henry IV. Following his rebellion de Holland fled, was captured, and beheaded on the orders of his captor the Countess of Hereford. In 1400 de Holland’s property reverted to the Crown. With this reversion to the Crown, at last in accordance with Edward III’s wishes, St Mary Graces obtained the manor of Bovey Tracey, but this was still to be a contested grant.36 We do not know what effect such frequent change of lord of the manor with his various clerks, stewards, bailiffs and reeves had on the people of Bovey Tracey and the occupiers of its lands. In 1425 the barony passed to John II Holland the second son of Elizabeth the widow of John de Holland.37 John II Holland was made 2nd Duke of Exeter in 1439 and at some time took seisin of the manor of Bovey Tracey from St. Mary Graces.
Wars of the Roses
John II Holland died in 1447. His son Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter, then held the barony of Barnstaple, including Bovey Tracey. Henry supported the Lancastrian cause and fled to Scotland after the Lancastrian defeat at the battle of Towton in 1461.38 As a consequence he was attainted. His wife Anne, Duchess of Exeter and sister of the King, then sought the manor of Bovey Tracey and other Devon lands known as ‘Exeter’ lands in her own right. King Henry VI granted these to her for life in December 1461.39 Again this was not for long as in 1469 Edward IV took back the lands of the Duchess of Exeter and gave them to his consort Elizabeth.40 This was during the time of the Wars of the Roses, and the lands were returned to the Duchess of Exeter when Henry VI regained his throne in 1470. Anne, Duchess of Exeter, divorced Henry Holland and in 1472 married Thomas Saint Leger. After she died in 1476 the ‘Exeter’ lands passed to her husband. St Leger remained lord of the manor until 1482 when he lost his estates through his rebellion against Henry VI, who then had St Leger beheaded in 1483.41 In 1482 Edward VI granted Thomas Lord Stanley and Margaret his wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort/Countess of Richmond and heiress of John late Duke of Somerset, as tenant in chief of the ‘Exeter’ lands and all other lands previously belonging to the late Duke of Exeter. These also became known as ‘Richmond’ lands.42 Richard III took these lands back and in March 1484 granted them to Thomas Everingham for his support in usurping the previous King. The castle and borough of Barnstaple and several manors were given to Thomas Everingham. These were the lands of the late Thomas St Leger, that is the ‘Exeter’ lands. 43
In December 1484 Richard III gave his councillor John Lord Scrope of Bolton and his male heirs the manor of Bovey Tracey. This too was a reward for good service against the rebels during the Wars of the Roses. The lands Scrope was given had previously been the lands of the Countess of Richmond. lands.44
Summary: Yarner continued to be owned by the Crown. However in Tudor times, because of various wars, the monarchs had difficulty borrowing money on the international market and so started to lease out Crown properties. In this way Yarner was included in leases to various court favourites. It was Queen Elizabeth I who started to sell off the Crown property and Yarner was one of the first Bovey Tracey estates she sold.
After Henry VII came to the throne he made the ‘great grant’ to his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby in 1487 giving her the barony of Barnstaple which continued to include Bovey Tracey.45 On her death in 1509 the manor of Bovey Tracey reverted to the Crown.
Henry VIII then became lord of the manor and he appointed John Braban, a local tin-merchant, to be bailiff of the manor and the town of Bovey Tracey.46 In 1517 the lease of the manor of Bovey Tracey and extensive other ‘Richmond lands’ were granted to Miles Birkehed.47 It is not yet known who Birkehed was, but lease holders were likely to be royal administrators, merchants or lawyers who were able to hear of such opportunities, or who were being rewarded for their loyalty to the Crown. In 1537 William Fitz William was enobled and became 1st Earl of Southampton and Admiral of the Fleet, and he was granted the lease of the manor of Bovey Tracey and other Devon lands.48 When Fitz William died in 1542 Henry VIII granted the lease of Bovey Tracey for twenty one years to John Wychalse of Chudleigh.49 It is not yet known who Wychalse was but as he was a local man he might have been the first lord to have lived in the manor. The 1524 the Devon lay subsidy referred to both Thomas Underhay and William Lyre of Owelcombe [Ullacombe] being taxed. Ullacombe is adjacent to the Yarner estate. No separate mention was made of Yarner, or of Pullabrook, but as some names were written without residences we do not know who paid the tax on these lands.50 In 1544 John Southcott and John Tregonwell were granted property in Ullacombe held then by Thomas Underhay, and also woods at Bovey Tracey. It is not stated which woods these were, so we do not known if this grant included Yarner.51
Edward VI, Queen Mary and the Third Official Documentation of Yarner in 1553
Edward VI succeeded his father in 1547 and, according to a later patent roll of Queen Elizabeth, that year he granted the manor to William Earl of Pembroke.52 By 1553 he had granted the lease of the manor of Bovey Tracey to John Southcott for a fee of £243 8s, and this passed to John’s son Thomas in 1556.53
A later deed of 1553 in Queen Mary’s reign is the next reference we have to Yarner when Yarner, Yarner Wood and Yarner Downe were leased to John Underhay.54
Elizabeth 1 and the Sale of Yarner
The lease of the manor of Bovey Tracey changed hands from the Southcott family to Sir Christopher Hatton, a courtier and favourite of the Queen, in 1569.55 The manor returned to the Southcotts again in January 1571.56 Each change of lease provided a fee for the Crown. However this system was changing as the Crown started selling off its lands to raise money as credit from European money markets was no longer readily available. All Bovey Tracey Crown lands were to be sold over the following forty years and Yarner was one of the first Bovey Tracey holdings to be dealt with in this way. By 1578 Yarner was owned by Gregory Sprint and his wife Christyen of Collaton as this was when they sold it to William Gorge and William Clerke esquires. This early change of ownership is confirmed by John Norden’s 1615 survey of the Manor of Bovey Tracey Crown lands when the Crown was planning to sell more of its estates. 57 Gregory Sprint was a lawyer and clerk in the Office of Augmentations. By 1586 he was to become M.P. for Shaftesbury, and in 1589 M.P. for Bridport.58 As a clerk he was in a good position to hear about the sale of Crown property. Often such Crown property was purchased by lawyers and immediately sold on for profit as happened with Yarner. In the 1578 transaction Sprint sold West Parke Yarner, Yarner Wood, Parke and Down in Ullacombe and Yarner in Bovey Tracey as well as extensive other property to William Gorge and William Clark. We do not know if Sprint ever visited Yarner. He had a Devon residence at Collaton Raleigh and several other Devon properties and there is no evidence of his being involved in local matters through the workings of the Court Leet and Court Baron of the Manor of Bovey tracey.
In 1596 the Bovey Tracey Church Rate referred to payment of 3s 8d for ‘Yearner Woode’ but no owner was given.59 This suggests that there was no substantial property there at the time, or that the owner had other holdings, as was not uncommon, and so was listed as from elsewhere in the parish.
John Norden’s survey of 1615-16 included a description of the boundaries of the parish of Bovey Tracey and referred to ‘Yearner Castle’. This is evidence that by that time the property at Yarner was castellated. Its current architecture is therefore a fitting reminder of what stood in previous centuries. Only some Bovey Tracey manorial rent records exist for the seventeenth century so details of the ownership of Yarner at this time is incomplete. These extant rent rolls together with other records held at the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter can help fill in the picture. We know from the will of Moses Stoneham that he was born in Norfolk c.1630, and later lived at Yarner where he had built a new house by the time of his death in 1678.61 The Stonehams were to become related to the Tozers by marriage at Exeter cathedral in 1709, and we will see that the Tozers had a later interest in Yarner.61
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY AND FREQUENT CHANGES OF OWNER/TENANT
Summary: Throughout the eighteenth century Yarner was owned or tenanted by a larger number of people than might be expected. This was not an estate lovingly cared for by one family and passed down subsequent generations. Over twenty eight transactions took place mortgaging the property, leasing it or passing it to others and so using it as a source of finance. Some of these transactions involved as many as twelve different people who had an interest in the estate. Although some of the owners in this century were described as colliers there is no evidence that Yarner was speculated on for its mineral wealth at this time.
Descendants of Moses Stoneham and several financial transactions
The next evidence of ownership is that in 1705 Charles Connatt, a ‘cole driver’ held Yarner and leased it to Abraham Troute who was a merchant from Exeter. When Troute came into possession in 1706 he sold Yarner to Clement Weeks, a fuller also from Exeter.62 From later transactions we learn that Moses Stoneham who had held the property in the seventeenth century had a nephew, Moses II, who was a clothier in Bovey Tracey. In 1708 Moses II had borrowed money on his part ownership of Yarner from Clement Cheeseman, a glover from Exeter. This illustrates how more than one person had part ownership of the estate and we will see that it became even more complicated. A will written in 1727 by John Stoneham the son of Moses II, shows that by that time he had inherited ‘an interest in a tenement called Yarner’.This will was proved in 1746.63 John was a mariner for the East India Company and lived in Stepney. In 1735 a further part of Yarner passed to Cheeseman under the terms of a will because money was still owing to him.64 However in the Manor Rents of 1735 it is John Burd who was listed as the ‘owner’ who paid the quit rent of 1s per annum.65 Ascertaining who owned, possessed through mortgage, or occupied tenancies is not an easy task as financial arrangements at this time were complex. In the Manor Rentals there were frequent queries about who actually owed the rent. John Burd contributed to the local government of Bovey Tracey as we know that he sat as a member of the jury on the Court Leet and Court Baron in 1749 and 1751. Sitting on the jury would suggest that Burd was of the ‘middling sort’ as these were the people who were willing to be involved in local governemnt.66 Yarner passed to John Stoneham who paid rent from at least 1735 to1737.67 When John Stoneham died in 1746 his part of Yarner passed to his wife Susannah. There now followed a considerable number of apparent exchanges of the land. Some of this was the lease and release system whereby a third party, frequently a lawyer, held the land for a brief period of time before passing it to the person who was always intended as the owner, or it showed deals whereby money was being raised as a mortgage and the land was being used as a guarantee. Whatever the reason the following list shows that Yarner was being used as a way to make money readily available to the owner.
During 1750 Yarner was mortgaged, inherited, released as a legacy and mortgaged again. In 1750 it passed from Susannah, the widow of John Stoneham, to Charles Cock, a collier from Ilsington. Cock mortgaged it to John Westcott of Chudleigh. It then passed from Cock to Anthony Tripe and then figured in an inheritance from Richard Hambly, a collier from Ilsington, to James Mowbery a London merchant. This was followed by a release of a legacy from Moses Tozer (son-in-law of Moses Stoneham II) to Bernard Taylor, a city of London merchant. Finally in the same year there was an assignment of mortgage from Susannah Stoneham to Cock and Hambly which effectively meant the mortgage was passed on to a third party because the second party was not able to pay it when required. 68 Such an assignment was often part of a complex method of inheritance between various people, described in a fictional account by Charles Dickens in Bleak House.69 This all illustrates the complication of the financial dealings of mortgages and inheritances of the time, and how properties were divided in portions through various inheritances and speculations.
Increased land speculation from 1750
Who did own Yarner in 1750? It is Charles Cock who is listed as the owner paying rent in the Manor Rolls of 1750. In 1752 at the Court Baron and Court Leet of the Manor, Charles Cock of Yarner was listed as a defaulter for not paying his entry fine. It was the custom of the manor that a fine would be paid on entry when coming into possession of a holding either by purchase or inheritance. This was one of the ways in which the Lord of the Manor, who was then Sir William Courtenay of Powderham, made a profit from his manor. It was not unusual for owners to be behind in paying this fine, but it would have been a disadvantage for the local governance of Bovey Tracey which needed to pay for public services such as constables, surveyor of the highways, and way wardens. Charles Cock continued as owner as shown in the Manor Rentals from 1755 to 1757.70 He remained the owner until 1770, and he continued to borrow on Yarner. In 1757 Cock passed Yarner by deed poll to the Rev. Anthony Tripe of Exeter.71 Three years later, in 1760, Cock, now describing himself as a yeoman and not just a collier, mortgaged the property to James Newbury of Chudleigh. By 1763 this arrangement had passed to Westcott as in that year he assigned it to John Pidsley, a gentleman from Bishopsteignton, and others. Later in the year, now in partnership with Newbury, Cock assigned Yarner to Rev. John Comyns who was related to Pidsley. Even later in 1763 Cock entered into a lease and release in trust for Newbury of Chudleigh. 72 The following year was to see similar arrangements. In 1768 Newbury mortgaged the property to Richard Blackler. This deed had 12 seals attached to it showing how many people now had a financial interest in the estate. Later in 1768 Pidlsey mortgaged it to Blackler in trust for John Tozer a yeoman. Finally in 1768 Pidsley reconveyed it to Tozer, and this deed had 10 seals. Charles Cock had a daughter Mary who had married John Tozer at Ilsington in 1760, so these financial arrangements were sometimes between branches of the same family. In 1769 John Tozer mortaged the property to Solomon Tozer, a maltser from Ashburton.73
The Templer Family of Stover Lodge Purchases Yarner
1770 was yet another year of complicated financial dealings. Firstly there was the administration of the Weekes estate. This led to two assignments to attend inheritance being from Richard Savery a gentleman from Ashburton, to John Parlby of Portsmouth, and also Jeffrey Bulley to Newbery. In this context ‘assignment to attend inheritance’ meant the purchaser needed to be aware that there might be some limitations attached to the inheritance as others had an interest in it.Cock was still described as the owner in the 1770 Manor Rental, but the manor officials were having trouble keeping up with the ownership as by this time James Templer of Stover had bought the estate, as shown by a lease and release to him from Solomon and John Tozer.74 This was an important addition to the Templers’ assets, and would assist them in the later development of theirgranite business on nearby Haytor, and building of the granite tramway which passed through Yarner land.
However, like the previous owner, James Templer was not willing to appear and pay suit at the Manor Court. Each year from 1769 to 1780 the Manor Rent Court Roll lists that he was among those who were in default and was fined. Perhaps he had bigger interests elsewhere managing his Stover estate.75
James Templer continued as owner of Yarner as shown by the Land Tax Assessment 1780 and Manor Rent Rolls.76 Although Templer was the owner he lived in the prestigious Stover House in nearby Teigngrace. Richard Perriman of Ilsington was tenant of the Yarner estate as in 1788 Mary Greenslade was apprenticed to him there.77 Bill Ransom, in his A History of Ilsington, referred to Richard Perryman having been of Woodhouse Farm in Ilsington, and suggested that Perryman’s Bridge boundary stone near Haytor might have been named after him.78
By 1797 Abraham Hill was a tenant of Yarner as Thomas Beard was apprenticed to him there. Possibly, like Perryman, Hill was either the tenant, bailiff or farm agent. In 1799 Hill was also connected with the Caseley estate in Lustleigh as shown by another apprenticeship made to him there.79
This summarises twenty eight groups of owners of Yarner in one century.
This was far more than for other Bovey Tracey estates, as for example Indio which was owned by three families, and Parke by just two during this time. The next century was to see even more frequent changes of owner.
MINING SPECULATION AND OWNERSHIP IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
Summary: This was the century of industrial speculation and Yarner was central to the business deals of people who sought wealth from mining. Over thirty different groups of owners became involved, the mineral rights were separated from the estate and shafts were dug to mine for copper. The mining venture was not a success. Yarner copper mine opened in1857 and had closed by 1864. By the end of the century Yarner had returned to being a family home as it had been in the seventeenth century.
Templer Family Profits from Yarner Wood and the Granite Tramway
The start of the nineteenth century saw stability of ownership as Yarner continued to be in the hands of James II Templer (b.1748) until his death in 1813. James II was an entrepreneur and built the Stover Canal from 1790 in order to profit from the expanding ball clay business, which was at that time developing around Chudleigh Knighton and parts of the Bovey Heathfield.
We now begin to learn a little more about life at Yarner. By 1805 it was hosting the local fox hunt as shown by an advertisement in the local press.80 In 1811 the estate was raising money from the sale of wood with fifty oak trees for sale, with interested purchasers to contact Stover House and not the occupier of Yarner.81
Yarner remained in the Templer family and was inherited by James II’s son George in 1813. George was the owner until 1828. His vision and enterprise led him in 1820 to build the Granite Tramway from Haytor quarries, passing through Yarner to Teigngrace for the transportation of granite to the Stover Canal (Figure 5). The tramway is thought to have continued in use until around 1858. The Templers also had an interest in the nearby Haytor iron mine.82
In the same year George Templer built the tramway he was raising money on Yarner as shown by a lease and release from Richard Turner, a gentleman paper maker of Aller Mill Exeter, to Templer. There was also an assignment to attend inheritance from Miss Charlotte Pearce of Ipplepen to Turner in trust forJames Potter of Heavitree. Miss Pearce was the legal representative of the late
James Newbury. This was followed by a lease and release and bond from Templer to Potter.83 We know the granite tramway was being used by 1825 as shown in re-permissions given from the Right Honourable William Viscount Courtenay to George Templer. These had given him a right of way over the land below Yarner over which to build a railroad to carry granite from Haytor rocks to his canal.84
Figure 5. Granite tramway passing through Yarner Wood. Frances Billinge 2016.
George Templer Sells Yarner and its Mineral Rights in 1828
Things were not going well for George Templer and his extravagant life style could not last. We next learn that he was selling Yarner but retaining the mineral rights. In 1826 an advertisement in the local press showed that Yarner with its 432 acres was for sale along with Stover Lodge Mansion House and its farm.85 1828 is when we first hear of possible mineral ‘exploitation’ of the land, But if George was hoping for easy money he was going to be disappointed. A draft grant and then a deed were drawn up between George Templer and Joseph Reynolds, an ironmaster of Greenfields, Glamorgan. This granted Reynolds ‘certain liberties and authorities to dig and search for iron ore and other metals and minerals in an estate called Yarner, Bovey Tracey for a term of 1000 years, and to dig, work mine and search for iron, iron ore and iron stone and all other metals and minerals and to erect build any engines and sink any shaft or shaft pit throughout the estate.’ Templer was to have a thirteenth part share or dole. The mine was called Yarner or Yarrow mine. The Templer family retained the mineral rights. These documents also refer to the use of the Haytor rail road and the Stover canal as part of the deal.86
More financial dealings ensued in 1829 with a lease and release from John Bartlett of Newton Abbot to Potter.This was shortly followed by a conveyance from George Templer to Reynolds, then by a lease for a year from Rev. Richard Lane to Reynolds, a mortgage by lease and release from Turner to Cook in trust for Reynolds, and finally a lease and release from Reynolds to the Rev. Andrew Danbury of Barkwell Somerset.87 In the following year Yarner was mortgaged from Reynolds to Miss Marcia Mowberly.88 George Templer was still listed as the owner on the Manor Rent Roll in 1830, but by 1831 it was Joseph Reynolds.89 Things were still not going well for Yarner and again in 1832 and 1833 it was up for sale as a sheep and corn farm ‘worth the notice of capitalists and sportsmen’. The advertisements referred to the acreage and stated ‘it has the best woodcock covers’. In 1833 Mr Joseph Mudge was described as the occupier to be contacted.90 In 1834 the Manor Rent Roll still listed Joseph Reynolds esquire as the owner.91 Reynolds was probably not living there as indentures of the same year have John Soper and also George Hillman apprenticed to Mr John Cole, yeoman, for the Yarner estate.92 In 1839 the estate was up for sale again with Mudge listed as the occupier.93 Following this we see the same complicated land transactions which we have encountered before. In 1840 there was an assignment to attend inheritance from Cook to John Woolway and John Stogdon a gentleman from Exeter. Joseph Reynolds was part of this sale and by now he was in London, his two sons were also involved and they were ironmasters in Bristol. Maybe having ironmasters involved persuaded the new owner that it would be a good investment. This was followed by a lease and release from Reynolds to John Brock a gentleman from Bratton Clovelly. This was not going to prove to be a good investment for Brock as he immediately mortgaged Yarner to Robert Madge esquire of Colebrook Devon later in in 1840.94 The next year John Brock was still the owner and he advertised 100 acres of coppice wood upwards of 23 years’ growth in Yarner Wood for sale. On the 1841 Census and the Tithe Apportionment he was both the owner and occupier of Yarner Farm, described as a farmer aged 35. Living with him were John Woolway aged 80 of independent means who had part inheritance of Yarner, John Cross an agricultural labourer aged 25, Josiah Goodier an agricultural labourer aged 14, and Susanna Rowe a female servant aged 20, all of them Devon born. No other residence was listed on the estate. Also in 1841 Brock entered into a mortgage with the Joseph Bidwill and Frederick and William Farrant, the former an Exeter surgeon and the latter a gentleman from Exeter.95 Brock continued trying to make money from the estate by selling timber. In April 1842 he advertised 2,000 trees and 150 acres of copse of 20-40 years’ growth for sale, but maybe he had no success as in December he was still advertising between one thousand and one thousand five hundred oak trees average fifteen feet in length, also ash, beech and walnut together with one hundred acres of coppice, and a large quantity of standards, ‘straight and clean not a shaken tree in the lot’.96 In 1843 Brock advertised the property to let for seven or fourteen years. It was described as including 260 acres of arable pasture etc. Later that year Brock mortgaged Yarner to the Rev. Theophilius Toye of Heavitree Exeter, and he was also selling other property in Devon using his Teignmouth banker William John Watts.97 The 1844 Land Tax assessment listed John Brock as the proprietor of Yarner with Thomas Winsor as the occupier, and Brock was also listed as the owner on the Manor Rent Roll. Later that year there was a transfer of the mortgage on the property from Brock to William Wilking, an esquire from Dawlish, followed by another transfer of mortgage from Brock to Watts.98
By 1845 John Brock was still listed on the Manor Rent Roll but he was in serious financial trouble. He had overstretched himself and was imprisoned for bankruptcy in the St Thomas the Apostle goal in Exeter as reported in the local press. He filed for bankruptcy on 13th May with his creditors to be heard on 22nd May.99 Kent has explained that imprisonment for debt was not such an uncommon thing in eighteenth to early nineteenth century England, and in Little Dorrit Dickens’ story drew on his own experiences from his father’s imprisonment for debt in the notorious Marshalsea London prison.100 In October Yarner was put up for let by tender by the Commissioner of the Court of Bankruptcy for the Exeter District with Mr Winsor listed as the occupier. This sale was of Yarner and Yarner Wood but did not include the mineral rights. It was described as 435 acres with arable, coarse pasture, meadows, woodland, farm house and outbuildings with the tenants paying £20 p.a. rent.101
In 1846 William John Watts obtained Yarner firstly by an assignment to attend inheritance from William Tanner to Watts, followed by a conveyance of Yarner from Brock to Watts. Watts also obtained the mineral rights fromReynolds and Brock. We have already come across Watts as Brock’s banker in1843, so Watts was in a good position to hear about advantageous land deals.102 Watts had various business interests and from his will of 1904 we find that he had shares in the South Devon Railway Company, another speculative adventure of the time.103 Watts was one of the new breed of men who were merchants and then bankers.
Yarner Copper Mines
On the 1851 Census Mark Drake, gamekeeper, lived at Yarner Lodge with his wife, and seven children and a servant. George Ridgeway, another head of house, with Thomas Marrick, gamekeeper, and his wife, and six children one of whom, John, was a 13 year old labourer, also lived at Yarner Lodge. At Yarner Farm lived John Merchant, a labourer, with his wife, child and John Richards a farm servant. These occupations indicate that Yarner was used as a sporting estate but that was about to change as it would soon also be an industrial site.104 In 1855 Watts obtained the Yarner iron and mineral rights from George Templer’s heirs who had acquired them by that time. Watts then offered them for sale ‘at 1s to 1s 6d a ton for 1000 years’. In the advertisement Watts was described as the occupier of Yarner.105 It took Watts two years to sell them to D’Arcy and Westcombe who purchased a 21 year grant for these rights.106 This was a period of intense financial speculation and industrial development throughout the country. Many more mines were developing in Devon and Cornwall. People were keen to speculate by investing in shares in the developing mining, railways, and other enterprises. Yarner mine opened in 1857 and as the machinery and ore sales have been researched thoroughly by others this information is not reproduced in full here. The mine started in great hope, shares were sold, but little was to come of it and it closed eight years later.107 The copper mine at Yarner was opening at a difficult time. In December 1857 it was described as ‘a very promising young mine, and now creating some attention.’ The London based Morning Chronicle in its section devoted to the Money Market and City News in December stated that at this time there was little business for British mines and shares were declining in price. The article listed the imports of precious metals from Africa, New York and elsewhere. Clearly many British mines were not profitable and foreign metals were flooding the market.108 Yarner managers were keen to encourage investment but the mine did not pay a dividend to its shareholders. In March 1858 a deficit of £243 was shown against ‘the adventurers’. Yarner was not alone in making a loss but others were doing well and paying a dividend to their shareholders. By August Yarner was still described as a non-dividend paying mine which had sold ores and had shares for sale, so was hoping to encourage investors. Things started to improve as in September 1858 Yarner’s accounts showed a balance of £72 in favour of the ‘adventurers’. In November Yarner was described as having sold ore and was still offering shares for sale through the Exeter stock and share brokers Sanford and Mortimer. By December Yarner was showing a debit of £188 18s 10d and a call for shares was made at 1s per share. Such a call for shares meant that shareholders were being asked to pay more for the shares they already had, which was seen as a disquieting method of obtaining capital for a business in trouble. 109 In January 1859 a London newspaper reporting on the London Market and City News talked-up Yarner mine’s production claiming that ‘the engine shaft was still favourable ground for copper, with the eastern end improving and producing fine stones of copper’, In February 102 tons of copper from Yarner was advertised to be sold at Truro. The next accounts in March showed a deficit of £491 9s 6d against the ‘adventurers’, and again a call for shares was made this time for 2s 5d. To encourage investment a report in the London press in May said that a new lode had been cut, but by the end of May a loss of £603 15s 3d was shown. Sixty seven tons of Yarner’s copper ore were advertised for sale at The Royal Hotel Truro.110 In April of the same year it was reported that a new company was to be formed called the Devon Wheal Frances Mining Company. This company, led by Messrs Faull and Barrett of Bovey Tracey, intended to mine for tin and copper on Higher Down, a site just above Yarner. 111 In May the following year Yarner showed a loss with the mine £723 in debt. By August there was improvement with a balance of £538.5s.1d, but by December shareholders were not satisfied, a call for shares of 4s had been made and, ‘926 shares out of 4096 resigned’. A three month stay of closure was agreed following the recommendation of Captain Hampton the manager. 112 The Census of 1861 showed that Yarner Lodge housed John Hearn, wood ranger, with his wife and child. At Yarner Farm were George Bishop, a farmer of 100 acres, with his wife and five children. No mention was made of any gamekeepers, but they could have lived elsewhere. Also on this census appears Thomas Luscombe living near the parish church and described as a copper miner so the likelihood is that he worked at Yarner. Luscombe was born in Bovey Tracey, unlike some of the other locally resident mine workers who came from Cornwall.113 Reports at the start of 1861 were encouraging. Investment was made in new machinery but financial success did not follow and by March a debit balance was reported of £527. The manager tried to improve the position with a long article in the London press in August describing the expected success;- ‘I am glad to inform you that the mine is looking much better …the two stopes east and west of St Thomas’ wince 9 east of shaft) are each worth 4 tons per fathom, a better lode than we have here I have not seen for some time. The 30 west will yield between 2 and 3 tons per fathom.The stope on the north lode is producing 3 tons per fathom.Here we are about 3 fathoms above the back of the level where we had the ore in sinking the wince from the 20 to 30; and from present appearance the ore will not hold up much further; but if it holds to that height we have a great many tons to take away. The 30 east on this lode is still poor; but today we have a change of ground in the end which I hope will lead to good results.In the shallow adit we have gone through what I call the lode; it is about 4 foot wide with 2 good flooken courses on each wall. The composition is killas and spar. The water is in fork to the 30, and we have spare water enough for crushing. We shall sample above a hundred tons on Thursday…’
By October the debit balance was reported as £741 9s 1d. It was also said that ‘the captains having recommended the erection of a steam-engine of not less than 50 in cylinder, in order to develop the mine efficiently, and the present prospect of the mine warranting the outlay, it was resolved that tenders for such an engine be advertised for’. As the mine had such a poor bank balance it would be surprising if new investors were found, but the manager must have thought the outlay for a new engine was justified. This needs to be understood within the context of Yarner being a developing mine when losses would be at their highest. Along with several other copper mines Yarner typified a period of mining speculation. The advert duly appeared with anyone who had such an engine for sale to contact the purser Mr Wescomb of Southernhay Exeter. Clearly he was not living on site. In December Yarner managed to sell all the 154 tons of copper ore it took for sale at Truro. It made £499.6s.6d. In comparison Wheal Friendship made £1,161, 5s.6d on 111 tons. This suggests that Yarner’s ore was not of good quality. 114
The business limped on and in May 1862 was in debit to £668 2s 8d. InJuly it sold 77 tons of copper ore at Truro but only realized £205 19 6d.115
Watts, the owner of the estate, was also having to deal with trouble on his land as in September 1863 a case was heard in the County Court. Phillips and his accomplice Wills were accused of causing damage to a fence and trees by setting fire to a brake at Yarner. The jury found them guilty and each had to pay £5 damages to Watts. That year things were no better for Yarner mine as the debit in 1863 rose to the large sum of £1,414, 4s 11d. The managers were named as Captains Hampton and Barkell. 116
In the meantime Watts was extending his enterprises and in December 1863 he obtained a 45 year lease of the rights of common with manorial rights of Higher Down, adjacent to Yarner, and some monies from Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck who was Lord of the Manor.117
Closure of Yarner Mine 1864
The mine closed in 1864. The Kinnaird Commission on health and safety in mines had reported on the unsatisfactory working conditions at the mine which affected the miners’ health. Around thirty three men worked in very wet conditions with no facilities for changing their wet clothes, and they also had to walk home in them over two miles at the end of an eight hour day. As a consequence they suffered respiratory and other diseases.118 In December of that year it was in debt to £521. Its total recorded output had been 2,300 tons.119 It is no surprise that with the poor reputation of mining at Yarner no-one was willing to invest in it. The mine was put up for auction in May 1865 and withdrawn through lack of interest, and then re-auctioned in October by Ware and Sons of Exeter. The sale advertisement stated, ‘valuable plant in good working order…’ and listed extensive machinery of a sixty inch cylinder steam engine with a ten ton boiler, sixty fathoms of pit work, two water wheels and crushers attached. It also talked up the enterprise by saying, ‘Satisfactory explanation can be given for the temporary suspension of workings.’120 It did not continue as a working mine and we do not know who purchased the machinery. On the positive side it had provided mining work for local people, as well as the makers of the machinery, for over a decade. From the 1861 Census we learn that 26 local men and one girl were employed at the mine. All that is left to see today are the ruins of mine buildings (Figure 6).121
Figure 6. Ruins of Yarner Mine Building. Frances Billinge 2016. At the same time as developing his business interests William Watts was making a contribution to the civic life of Bovey Tracey. He did not sit on the jury of the manor but from 1865 he was an annual subscriber to the National School. Other subscribers were the Earl of Devon, the Lord of the Manor Sir Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck, John Divett the owner of the pottery business, and various prominent local men and women.122 In June 1866 a local newspaper reported that, ‘Becky Falls waters now diverted to drive machinery of some coal works in Bovey Tracey.’ This was an important development for John Divett’s pottery company in the Heathfield area of Bovey Tracey which was attempting to use the local lignite in the processing. This leat passed through the Yarner estate and Divett would have had to pay for a licence from Watts for this right to divert water across the latter’s land.123
Devon Wheal Frances
1866 is when we have the next news of Devon Wheal Frances, which was started sometime after April 1859. The iron and mineral rights for Yarner and Higher Down were surrendered from Ware to Watts, then conveyed from Watts to Blackford for Devon Wheal Frances. In October Devon Wheal Frances showed a credit of £5.2s.1d and the purser was told to purchase the adit and ground of Yarner for £250.124 This meant that Wheal Frances was now confirmed as having an interest in working on the Yarner estate. The following year Watts, now living at the prestigious Forde House in Newton Abbot, mortgaged the iron and mineral rights to Dr George Whidbourne of Crediton and others.125 Watts did not own Forde House, he rented it from William Courtenay the Earl of Devon.126 In January Devon Wheal Frances was reported as having a balance of £25 7s 5d. By September the balance had reduced to £3. Again it was talked up in a newspaper article saying, ‘the report pf the agent was encouraging in character’. It does not appear that this mine produced any ore and 1867 was the last report made. 127 While the mining was in decline sporting life continued on the Yarner estate with advertisements announcing hunting meets in 1867, 1868, and 1871.128 At the time of the 1871 Census Yarner Lower Lodge was lived in by Hugh Alford, an agricultural labourer his wife and two children; Yarner Higher Lodge was unoccupied; Yarner Farm had William Giles, a farmer of 110 acres, and his wife. Yarner Lodge housed Magor Jones, gamekeeper, and his wife.129 From the time of the closure of the mine Yarner returned to being an estate for country sports. This led to repeats of the fourteenth century problems with tresspassers, but now these tresspassers were not the local gentry. In 1877 a case was heard at the petty sessions. Mr Watts, owner of Yarner, had been informed by his farm bailiff, Robert Acland, of three men trespassing at Yarner who had killed a rabbit with sticks, ferret and a dog. Jonah Durges, labourer of Manaton, was fined £1 and 134s costs and the others were dismissed as Durges had the rabbit in his coat. They said they had gone to watch the hunt. Watts said his land had been trampled on a lot lately.130 Watts was to become High Sheriff of Devon in 1899.131 When Watts died in 1904 he left £95,247, the equivalent of £5.5 million today. He had made his money from being initially a merchant, then a banker and also a landowner and he was a man who was willing to take risks with financial transactions.132
In 1878 the Yarner estate was bought by Henry Chadwick, an Oxford Law graduate, who renamed it Chadwycke. After the mining enterprise had failed Yarner now returned to being a family home. Those visiting Henry Chadwick of Chadwycke might have assumed he had a more ancient association with the estate. Such aggrandizement is well portrayed by Thackeray’s Mr Muggins re-inventing himself as ‘De Mogynes’ in The Book of Snobs.133
In 1878 the reconveyance of Yarner Wood and Yarner from Tozer to Watts shows that Watts still had some financial interest in the property. Watts also reobtained the Yarner iron and mineral rights which were surrendered to him from Blackford.134
In 1881 the Census referred to Yarner as, ‘now Chadwycke Lodge’. Harry Chadwick with his wife and two children, Charles Woods, butler; Jane Pearce, cook; Louisa Bagridge, nurse; and Hannah Ackland, house maid, were all living at Chadwyche Lodge. Head of house John Smerdon, coachman, with his wife and niece; and another head of house, John Denley, agricultural labourer, with his wife were all living at Lower Lodge Chadwyche. Robert Acland, gamekeeper, and his wife were at Higher Lodge Chadwyche. There were seven resident staff in all and their occupations suggest a minor country house.135
The hunt, called ‘Mr Whidborne’s Fox Hounds’, continued to meet on the estate as reported in 1883 when they started from Yarner Higher Lodge.136 Chadwick is thought to have improved the house and estate. The 1889 OS map shows rides around the estate and a lawn tennis ground. It was very much a family home and modest country estate.
We then hear of another incident of poaching. In 1889 the case came before the magistrates of George Watts and John Clarke, labourers of Newton Abbot, who had trespassed, put down netting and stolen conies at Yarner. The keeper, Stephen Acland, had chased them. They were fined or given seven to fourteen days in goal. At the same session two men were caught netting and ferreting on Mr Harry Chadwyke’s land of ‘Hyler Down’ presumably Higher Down. They too had been chased by the same keeper. They were found to have stolen eight rabbits and were fined or had to do seven days hard labour.137 On the 1891 Census William Sussex, gardener, was living with his wife at Yarner Higher Lodge. John Hingston, gamekeeper, and his wife were living at Yarner. Yarner Well was unoccupied; Yarner Lower Lodge housed James Snell, farm labourer, his wife and son. Harry Chadwick, solicitor at law, was actually living in Dawlish at the time suggesting that Yarner was not his main residence, and consequently a full complement of residential staff was not required.138
Assisting the Water Supply of Bovey Tracey
The late nineteenth century was a time when the population of Bovey Tracey was expanding and a cleaner and more extensive water supply was required. A reservoir had been built on land above the parish church, but this was not enough. In 1891 Chadwick agreed with that the Guardians of the Poor of the Newton Abbot Union acting as Rural Sanitary Authority that it could have the rights of ‘taking, using and conveying water’ from his land. 139 Through this transaction Harry Chadwick left an important legacy to local people. Chadwick also continued to assist the local Bovey Tracey Pottery Company. In 1895 he continued the right for it to use water from his land. This agreement was on ayearly basis at the rent of £20.140 Harry Chadwycke continued in seasonal residence at Yarner as listed in the Kelly directories throughout the 1880s and 1890s.141
TWENTIETH CENTURY – A PRIVATE ESTATE AND A NATURE RESERVE
Summary: The twentieth century was to see yet more change for Yarner. After occupation and ownership by one family for over forty years it was sold in two parts. One continued as a family residence but the other part, Yarner Wood, became a National Nature Reserve managed by Nature Conservancy.
Chadwick’s neighbour was Harry Trelawney Eve of Pullabrook who had bought that estate in 1892.142 Before the end of 1900 Eve was in residence at Yarner as shown by yet another trespassing court case. Frederick Roberts, Joseph Penfound, Edward Pensfound (sic) and Joseph Roberts, all hawkers, were found guilty of damaging and stealing holly worth 25s. Their two cartloads had been seen by Mr Weal, head gardener for Mr Eve of Yarner, and corroborated by two other of Eve’s employees. Each man was fined 21s or 14 days.143 Eve was an important figure in the area. He was born in 1856 as the only son of Thomas Eve, a Jamaica merchant, and had been educated at Oxford College. He was elected as a Liberal M.P. for Ashburton from 1904 to 1907.144
Eve may have also used the house as a seasonal home dwelling because on the 1901 Census only two people were in residence – namely Susannah Brimelcombe, female caretaker of gentleman’s house, and her young son. There were no resident domestic staff. William Hext, under gardener, was living at Yarner Lodge with his wife and daughter. Edward Joint, head keeper of the estate, and his wife and three children were at Yarner Wells. This makes three resident staff in total.145
More Assistance to the Water Supply of Bovey Tracey
More water was needed for nearby Bovey Tracey. In 1901 Eve made a memorandum of agreement with Newton Abbot Rural District Council to grant land for a reservoir for the water of Bovey Tracey. This reservoir was on Eve’s Pullabrook land adjacent to Yarner’s current boundary.146
Once Again a Knight of the Realm Owns Yarner
In July 1902 Chadwick was selling ‘Chadwyke’. A newspaper advertisement tells us that he was selling all the fixtures and fittings of ‘Chadwyke formerly Yarner’. It clearly was a large house of thirteen bed and dressing rooms, a library of 1500 books, several carriages and sporting rifles. The auctioneer described it as a ‘mansion, with three lodges and over 435 acres, and a sporting estate’.147 Harry Trelawny Eve became the new owner in 1902. In March the Local Government Board enquiry into the water supply of Bovey Tracey reported that Eve had granted over two acres on Reddaford Down for a reservoir to be built which confirmed the earlier memorandum of agreement.148 We do not know how soon Eve reverted his estate to the original name of Yarner, but it was the latter by the time of the 1911 Census.149 Another case of trespass occurred in 1903 when Samuel Tuckett, a Welsh miner was found guilty of trespass in pursuit of game. Alfred Johns, Eve’s keeper had seen the offence. Tuckett was fined £1 including costs.150
Eve was an important local figure and he was knighted in 1907 and became a member of the Privy Council.151 The last time a knight had owned Yarner was in medieval times. Eve did not stay at Yarner much longer as by 1910 there was a new resident, Richard Henry Lee whose wife was judge of table decorations at Chudleigh show.152
Yarner Affected by Two World Wars
Living at Yarner House in 1911 was Mr Lee the tenant, his wife, daughter and six female domestic staff. The staff were Annie Treganowan, cook; Annie Bury, parlour maid; Alice Coxon, sewing maid; Rose Richard and May Lewis, housemaids; and Bella Kennaway, kitchen maid. Samuel Bond, domestic gardener, and his family lived at Yarner Drive Lodge. Charles Lount, groom, and Charles German and John Shillabeer, domestic under-gardeners, lived in the Bungalow, Yarner on the entrance drive. Frank Coles, coachman, with his wife and son lived at The Stables, Yarner, which the enumerator listed as Coachman’s Cottage. Edward Low, gamekeeper, and his wife lived at Yarner Well Lodge.James Vinnicombe, cowman, with his wife and two children lived at Yarner Lower Lodge, which the enumerator called Yarrow Lodge. This was thirteen staff in residence on the estate, the most it had ever been.153
The hunt continued to meet on the estate.154 In 1912 the celebrated local writer, Eden Phillpotts, set his novel The Forest on the Hill in legendaryDartmoor and mentioned the delights of Yarner’s woods.155
More water was needed in Bovey Tracey and in 1914 Eve, as owner, made an additional grant of water to Newton Abbot Rural District.156
Yarner was to be touched by the casualties of WWI. In 1915 a soldier’s wife living at Yarner was advertising in the local press seeking employment as a caretaker/cook/housekeeper, gardener. The inference is that her husband was away at war.157 The Bovey Tracey Heriatge Trust commemorative book on WWI contains the information that Mrs Hull’s husband Arthur, a private in the Devonshires, was a gamekeeper for Mr Lee, but Arthur was killed in Salonika in 1916.158
Trespassing and poaching continued. In 1916 Edward John Gosland was accused of this on Yarner and Haytor Down as the gamekeeper apprehended him and found he had four rabbits, a ferret and six nets. Furthermore Gosland gave a false name. He was found guilty and fined £1.159
Mrs Lee of Yarner advertised for ‘a cowman, and a useful man’, in Nov 1917.160 There would not have been so many able to respond to this as before the war. Information on Yarner Wood and its gamekeepers from this time has been researched by Phil Page.161 Eve still owned Yarner at this time and the South west Water archives inform us that he obtained Pullabrook as well, together with William John Watt’s manorial rights on the common down and mines. Watts had purchased these from the lord of the manor in 1863 and his agreement to give the lord, Bentinck, a quarter of the value of the metals and minerals found under the common land was passed to Eve.162 Eve’s son William Henry Eve of the Household Cavalry was killed in action in 1917. Shortly after this Eve put Yarner up for sale and it was purchased by the tenant Mr Richard Lee for £10,000 in 1919.163 Lee did not enjoy his property for long as he died in 1923. It was reported that he had been a keen Torquay yachtsman and that he spent his winters in Bovey Tracey. He was buried in Bovey Tracey and his funeral was attended by the local landed gentry.164 After Lee’s death Yarner passed to his wife, daughter and son-in-law. Sadly history was to repeat itself as his son-in-law Captain John Catterall Leach R.N., died in action in 1941.165 Yarner 1941 was for sale again in 1950 and in 1952 the estate was divided in two with Yarner Wood being sold to Nature Conservancy, becoming one of the first six National Nature Reserves.166 Management of the reserve has succeeded through name changes and is now managed by Natural England. Yarner House and its estate continue as a large and delightful family home in a breathtaking setting. It is also available as a venue for weddings and other celebrations.
In its early days Yarner was a hunting lodge within a wooded estate. Its timber was sold, and from archaeological evidence we also know charcoal was burnt (Figure 7).167
Figure 7. Depiction of charcoal burning at Yarner Wood, drawn by Image Makers, by kind permission of Natural England. A more substantial house is known to have been there from at least the latter part of the seventeenth century. Mining exploration in the industrial revolution was not a financial success, but evidence of Yarner’s mining history remains in the form of a ruined engine house and several shafts and adits. The property changed from being a medieval hunting lodge to a family residence in the seventeenth century. It was then tenanted before becoming a seasonal residence in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and finally becoming a family home again. Yarner House and its grounds continue to be privately owned, set amid a tranquil landscape which bear little evidence of its turbulent eighteenth and nineteenth century history. Through the stewardship of Natural England, bird watchers are now Yarner Wood’s visitors where in previous centuries it was hunters and poachers. A family now lives at Yarner House which can be hired for weddings and other family celebrations. Today anyone can enjoy Yarner whereas in its early history few would ever have ventured there.
I would like to thank Maja Holman and her family at Yarner House for their continuing interest; Albert Knott East Dartmoor Nature Reserve Manager for providing illustrations, together with his team for their continuing involvement; the staff at Devon Heritage Centre for their untiring assistance in retrieving documents; Dr Ian Mortimer of the Moor Than Meets the Eye project Dartmoor National Park and Dr Todd Gray for their advice on the medieval lords of the manor; Dr Tom Greeves and Dr Phil Newman for their most helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper; and Jackie Paxman Supervisor Bovey Tracey Library for her enthusiasm in tracking down mining references from other libraries.
CCR Calendar of Close Rolls
CPR Calendar of Patent Rolls
DHC Devon Heritage Centre
LPFD Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic
ODNB Oxford Dictionary of National Biography http://www.oxforddnb.com TNA The National Archives
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- Sewell, Richard Clarke, ed., 1846. Gesta Stephani Regis Anglorum et Ducis Mormannorum, 1 (London Historical Society), pp. 24,104-5.
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